KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Sebelius Disputes ‘Rate Shock,’ Assures Exchanges’ Readiness

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a call with reporters yesterday that the agency is "on target" to open new online marketplaces Oct. 1. She also spoke about personal "Obamacare" accounts which consumers can begin creating now in advance of being able to shop for plans.

The Wall Street Journal: Preparations For Health Exchanges On Tight Schedule
Opening day for the new health-insurance marketplaces is two months away, but efforts to recruit and train workers to help people enroll are barely off the ground in many states. With time running short before enrollment kicks off Oct. 1, the Obama administration last week cut back on training requirements for these "navigators." Officials were concerned there might not be enough time to do more-extensive training before the health-insurance exchanges open (Schatz, 8/5).

The Associated Press: Personal 'Obamacare' Accounts Debut
You can now open your own personal "Obamacare" account — but you'll have to wait awhile before you can actually use it to pick a health insurance plan. Just eight weeks before the Oct. 1 launch of open enrollment under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul law, administration officials announced Monday that the Affordable Care Act is a step closer to reality for millions of uninsured Americans (Alonso-Zaldivar, 8/5).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Consumers Can Take First Step To Enrolling In New Insurance Options Today
Consumers in most states can start the process of enrolling in Obamacare today — but they won't be able to compare health insurance prices or buy coverage in the new federally run insurance online marketplaces until Oct. 1, administration officials said Monday (Galewitz, 8/5).

Atlanta Journal Constitution: Obamacare Now Accepting Sign-Ups
Uninsured consumers can now go online at healthcare.gov to create a personal account as a first step to getting health coverage under Obamacare, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday. While consumers will have to wait for the marketplace of insurance plans and premiums to open, they can at least establish a username and password (Seward, 8/5).

USA Today: HHS Starts Features To Help Consumers Learn Insurance
About 7 million Americans are estimated to start buying health insurance as part of the new law, but a new survey shows they don't understand the basics of how health insurance works or is provided (Kennedy, 8/5).

McClatchy: Some States Misreporting Health Insurance Costs, HHS' Sebelius Says
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Monday that some state reports blaming Obamacare for sharply higher health insurance premiums next year were "factually incorrect." Sebelius didn't say which states she was referring to, but her push-back comes after GOP-led states such as Ohio, Georgia and Indiana recently warned of large premium rate hikes next year due to the Affordable Care Act (Pugh, 8/5).

CQ HealthBeat: Sebelius Disputes New 'Rate Shock' Claims By Some States
Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday challenged recent claims by state officials that insurance premiums will zoom next year in the new exchanges opening under the health law. Information put out at the state level is "in a couple of very specific instances ... just factually incorrect," Sebelius said in a telephone briefing updating reporters on health care law implementation (Reichard, 8/5).

The Washington Post's Wonk Blog: HHS Shielding Obamacare Outreach From Sequester Cuts
The health insurance marketplaces launch eight weeks from Tuesday, and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius would like you to know that her agency is "on target and ready to flip the switch on October 1." … Sebelius spent about a half-hour earlier Monday answering a wide range of questions from reporters, mostly on the launch of the marketplaces, whether her department would be ready and what to expect in coming weeks (Kliff, 8/5).

CQ HealthBeat: OIG: CMS Must Complete 'Critical Tasks' To Assure Data Hub Security
The federal data hub that could make or break whether health insurance exchanges open on time on Oct. 1 won’t be designated as secure until the day before, according to a new analysis by the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General. In March, a timetable by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had built in more time between the hub being authorized as secure and the opening of exchange enrollment (Reichard, 8/5).

In related news -

The Hill: AARP Unveils Websites To Help Consumers Navigate ObamaCare
The top U.S. senior lobby is launching online tools to help consumers navigate ObamaCare and their new coverage options. AARP announced Monday that it has launched two websites — healthlawanswers.org and healthlawfacts.org — ahead of the enactment of the healthcare reform's major provisions (Viebeck, 8/5).

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